Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a sharecropper's son who rose to become a civil rights champion and the chairman of the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee, died Thursday of complications from longstanding health problems. He was 68.
Cummings was a formidable orator who advocated for the poor in his black-majority district, which encompasses a large portion of Baltimore and more well-to-do suburbs.
Cummings' career spanned decades in Maryland politics. He rose through the ranks of the Maryland House of Delegates before winning his congressional seat in a special election in 1996 to replace former Rep. Kweisi Mfume, who left to lead the NAACP.
The Baltimore Ravens, the team in Cummings' home district, issued the following statement following the news of his passing:
"Like all of Baltimore and Maryland, we are saddened by the passing of the Honorable Elijah Cummings, a champion for our city and our state. Cummings was an agent for change, a titan of civil rights and a fighter for Baltimore, his district and the area. He was a friend and a mentor to a number of our current and former players. His passion and his intense and principled efforts to make the Baltimore area better will be missed. Indeed, he was a beacon of hope and light. Our prayers and thoughts are with his wife Maya and his family."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell also paid respect Thursday to Cummings.
"I was deeply saddened to learn this morning of the passing of Congressman Elijah Cummings," Goodell said in statement. "Congressman Cummings was a favorite son of Baltimore and his beloved district was always close to his heart, whether partnering with the Baltimore Ravens to advance social justice or inviting the NFL to speak to hundreds of high school students about the importance of fair competition and staying away from performance-enhancing drugs. As an attorney, state delegate, and Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, he dedicated his remarkable life to serving others with character, integrity, and compassion. The NFL joins the Baltimore Ravens in extending our sincere condolences to the Congressman's family, constituents, and friends throughout the country."
The Associated Press contributed to this report